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Foundations of Audio: Compression and Dynamic Processing

Using side chains creatively


From:

Foundations of Audio: Compression and Dynamic Processing

with Brian Lee White

Video: Using side chains creatively

What used to be reserved for the underground electronic music scene has since become a go-to technique for pop arrangers everywhere. Compressing a synth pad or a bass with a side-chain kick drum is a sound that you can't mistake. Let me show you how to set it up. Listen to this unprocessed kick drum and synth pad. (music playing) Now, listen as I enable the side-chain compressor on the synth.
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  1. 4m 56s
    1. Welcome
      1m 49s
    2. What you should know before watching this course
      32s
    3. Using the exercise files
      53s
    4. Using the "Get in the Mix" Pro Tools and Logic Pro session files
      1m 42s
  2. 13m 47s
    1. What is amplitude?
      1m 51s
    2. Measuring amplitude
      1m 57s
    3. What is dynamic range?
      4m 8s
    4. What are dynamics processors?
      3m 36s
    5. Hardware and software dynamics processors
      2m 15s
  3. 38m 40s
    1. Introducing compressors
      1m 45s
    2. Understanding threshold
      1m 29s
    3. Utilizing compression ratios
      3m 0s
    4. Understanding makeup gain and gain reduction
      3m 13s
    5. Understanding attack and release
      2m 12s
    6. Applying attack and release
      5m 22s
    7. Demystifying compression controls: soft knee vs. hard knee
      2m 43s
    8. Get in the Mix: Using compression to even out a vocal performance
      4m 55s
    9. Get in the Mix: Using compression to add punch and sustain to drums
      4m 39s
    10. Intelligently using compression presets
      3m 6s
    11. Recording with compression: Why or why not?
      2m 53s
    12. Recording with compression: How to do it
      3m 23s
  4. 18m 50s
    1. Introducing limiters
      1m 59s
    2. Types of limiters
      4m 17s
    3. Get in the Mix: Maximizing mix loudness with brickwall limiters
      5m 58s
    4. Solving common mix problems with limiters
      2m 58s
    5. Using layered dynamics processing
      3m 38s
  5. 26m 49s
    1. Understanding and using de-essers
      3m 46s
    2. Get in the Mix: De-essing a vocal track
      3m 30s
    3. Understanding and using gates
      4m 41s
    4. Understanding and using expanders
      1m 35s
    5. Get in the Mix: Gating a drum track
      3m 18s
    6. Understanding and using multi-band compressors/limiters
      3m 31s
    7. Controlling frequency content with multi-band compressors
      3m 3s
    8. Understanding and using transient shapers
      3m 25s
  6. 36m 38s
    1. Effectively using side-chain inputs
      2m 6s
    2. Using side chains creatively
      5m 4s
    3. Keying gates and compressors (and/or ducking)
      4m 12s
    4. Managing gain staging and headroom and fixing over-compressed tracks
      3m 20s
    5. Compression first or EQ first?
      2m 56s
    6. Understanding mix bus compression
      3m 26s
    7. Get in the Mix: Using mix bus compression
      2m 47s
    8. Get in the Mix: Working with parallel compression
      3m 46s
    9. Working with "modeled" vintage compressor/limiter plug-ins
      5m 57s
    10. Building healthy compression/limiting habits
      3m 4s
  7. 14s
    1. Goodbye
      14s
  8. 5m 51s
    1. A session with Brian Lee White
      5m 51s

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Foundations of Audio: Compression and Dynamic Processing
2h 25m Appropriate for all Dec 22, 2011 Updated Jan 10, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this first installment of the Foundations of Audio series, author Brian Lee White shows how to improve the sound of a mix with compressors, limiters, gates, de-essers, and other dynamic processors. The course explains the fundamentals of sound waves, and amplitude, explores common compressor controls, and shows how to eliminate unwanted noise using gates and expanders. The course also demonstrates best practices in compression and limiting in a variety of audio applications and covers sculpting the attack and decay of individual notes with transient shapers and applying frequency specific dynamics control with multiband compressors. Exercise files accompany the course and include special Get in the Mix session files.

Topics include:
  • Measuring amplitude
  • Understanding dynamic range
  • Introducing compressors
  • Utilizing compression ratios
  • Applying attack and release
  • Evening out a vocal performance with compression
  • Adding punch and sustain to drums
  • Using compression presets intelligently
  • How to record with compression
  • Solving common mix problems with limiters
  • De-essing a vocal track
  • Using gates and expanders
  • Controlling frequency content with multiband compressors
  • Using sidechains creatively
  • Keying gates and compressors
  • Fixing overcompressed tracks
  • Using mixbus compression
  • Working with parallel compression
  • Compression and limiting best practices
Subjects:
Audio + Music Mixing Music Production Audio Foundations Audio Effects
Software:
Logic Pro Pro Tools
Author:
Brian Lee White

Using side chains creatively

What used to be reserved for the underground electronic music scene has since become a go-to technique for pop arrangers everywhere. Compressing a synth pad or a bass with a side-chain kick drum is a sound that you can't mistake. Let me show you how to set it up. Listen to this unprocessed kick drum and synth pad. (music playing) Now, listen as I enable the side-chain compressor on the synth.

(music playing) Here's how I set it up. As with any side-chain workflow, we must first define what will be receiving the compression and what will act as the key of that compressor. In this case we want to compress or duck the synth pad every time the kick drum hits. Now, because the kick drum is plain and nice even four-on-the floor beat, this creates a cool breathing or pumping effect on the synth pad, as if it was swelling to the beat of the music.

I'll start by applying the compressor to my synth pad. In this case, I'm using the Waves C1. Now, if I stopped here, I would simply be compressing the synth pad using its own signals to trigger the threshold. But that isn't what I want. I want to get the kick drum to talk to the compressor on the synth track. Now, this next step varies from DAW to DAW. In Pro Tools what I need to do is use a bus send to route part of the kick drum's signal into the key or side-chain input of my compressor on the synth track. So what I'm going to do is remove this bus that I've already set up and now I can select from my Sends > bus, and I'll use Bus 1 as my side-chain key.

Turn that up to around 0, to feed that Bus 1. All dynamics plug-ins that support key inputs will have a bus selector at the top left-hand side of the plug-in window. In other DAWs, like Logic, for example, I might simply see a track selector directly on the plug-in that allows me to choose what track I want to key from without having to set up any sends or buses. Now that I have the side-chain signal fed into the compressor, I want to adjust the threshold setting during playback so I can start to get a feel for the effect.

Some compressors might require that I click a button to activate the key input, while others, like this C1, automatically detect the key and start using it immediately. (music playing) This is one case where I will not use the makeup gain on the compressor, because I want to gain reduction to attenuate the signal to achieve that swelling effect as the compressor releases.

Now I can tune the attack and release by ear to get the right amount of lag time between the kick hits and the offbeat synth swells. (music playing) Now, let me switch out the compressor for a gate so we can hear the difference between the two.

Notice how the gate achieves the opposite effect but is just as cool and usable as a creative effect. I've already set up the C1 gate with the correct side-chain input and set the attack, release, and threshold settings. (music playing) Sometimes I like to feed my side-chain with a pre-processed version of the key signal, living on a duplicate muted track.

For example, the processed key can be filtered with EQ to cut out all the high end of a busy loop so the side chain just hears the low-end kick. Remember, you don't have to actually hear the signal play back in your mix; it just has to be an effective key for the side-chain compressor. So experiment with this concept. Generally, I like to use a fast attack and tune the release to feel good with the beat. Every compressor will work a little bit differently, so experiment. I can have better luck with faster compressors that I can really dial in the attack and release settings I'm looking for, but sometimes compressors without attack and release settings can sound killer too.

At any rate, this is definitely a situation where you want to let your ears guide you.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Foundations of Audio: Compression and Dynamic Processing.


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Q: This course was updated on 1/10/2014. What changed?
A: The Get in the Mix videos have been updated to the most recent version of Pro Tools. Also, the course now includes free Get in the Mix sessions for two more DAWs: Logic Pro X and Pro Tools 11.
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